LINCOLN (SNR/CNA) - Bishop James Conley installed 57 lay men as acolytes and nine as lectors Feb. 16 at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln.
The installation of acolytes is effected by the bishop praying over the candidates, and then giving each the Eucharistic vessels.
The ministry of acolyte is most often conferred upon men who are in formation for the diaconate or priesthood, but the Code of Canon Law does provide that “Lay men who possess the age and qualifications … can be admitted on a stable basis through the prescribed liturgical rite to the ministries of lector and acolyte.”
In the dioceses of the US, the qualifications to be installed as a lector or acolyte are having completed one’s 21st year, and possessing the skills necessary for an effective service at the altar, being a fully initiated member of the Church, being free of any canonical penalty, and living a life which befits the ministry to be undertaken.
Lay persons who are not installed acolytes can supply certain aspects of their duties, when the need of the Church warrants it and ministers are lacking. For example, parishioners who are not installed acolytes may bring Communion to the homebound with the permission of the pastor. However, installed acolytes are permitted to purify the Eucharistic vessels, which task cannot be supplied by another lay person.
The installation of lay men not in formation for holy orders as acolytes is not common among dioceses in the US, though the Diocese of Lincoln is among those which do so.
The lay ministries—formerly minor orders—of lector and acolyte were established by Pope Paul VI in 1973 with the apostolic letter “Ministeria Quaedam.”
The Holy Father explained how “certain ministries were established by the Church even in the most ancient times for the purpose of suitably giving worship to God and for offering service to the people of God according to their needs.”
Some of the functions, he explained, closely connected with the liturgical celebration, slowly came to be considered as a training in preparation for the reception of sacred orders. Since the “minor” orders were not always the same everywhere, he said, “it seems fitting to reexamine this practice and to adapt it to contemporary needs.” Men in the Lincoln Diocese have dedicated their lives to serve in the ministry of acolyte since the norms went into effect in 1973.
In detailing the duties of a lector, who reads the word of God in the liturgical assembly, the Holy Father wrote: “Aware of the office he has undertaken, the lector is to make every effort and employ suitable means to acquire that increasingly warm and living love and knowledge of Scripture that will make him a more perfect disciple of the Lord.”
A man applies for one of these ministries with a handwritten petition to the Bishop of Lincoln, participating in the appopriate lector or acolyte training sessions, safe environment training and making a Profession of Faith. Men interested in these ministries should visit with their local pastor.
Bishop Conley will celebrate another Mass of installation of acolytes and lectors April 5 at St. Patrick Churh in McCook, for men in the western portion of the Diocese of Lincoln.
“The Diocese of Lincoln is blessed with many dedicated acolytes, who assist our priests in the Sacred Liturgy,” Bishop Conley said. “I thank them, as well as the many dedicated lectors, for their service to Almighty God.”